It has been a long while since Somerset played Glamorgan in first-class cricket, but then again it has been a long while since any first-class cricket has been played outside a “millions of pound-costing bio-secure bubble”. Fortunately the former is longer than the latter; 13 years since Glamorgan last played a first-class fixture in Taunton.
This 2007 meeting saw the West Country outfit win by 299 runs. Andy Caddick took 4/48 to see Somerset victorious inside three days against Mark Wallace’s side.
You then have to go back to September 1997, when former Somerset Director of Cricket Matt Maynard and Hugh Morris scored centuries in a ten-wicket, three-day victory in the Welsh side’s march to the Championship title.
Somerset will not be hampered by a 12-point deduction in this year’s competition, and they come into this game in great form after trouncing Gloucestershire by more than an innings in their red-ball friendly earlier this week.
Expect both counties to field youthful XIs. See the lengthy team news section below for further thoughts on this.
Top scorer in Somerset’s intra-squad friendly was not Steve Davies, who scored 104 in his only knock in the game, but spin-bowling allrounder Roelof van der Merwe. The 35-year-old scored 61 and 66 when given a go at number five in this intra-squad match.
Likely to be batting as low down as eight or nine, possibly below the Overtons, but definitely above Jack Brooks and Josh Davey, shows the great strength in Somerset’s batting line-up even without their England men.
Taking on the spinner’s mantle from Jack Leach and Dom Bess is a more important job for the Dutchman. But as Dom Bess experienced in the final test vs the Windies, if the seamers do their job and you do not bowl a ball in the entire match, then a quickfire 30 and a runout are other ways to get your name in the papers – feats van der Merwe is more than capable of.
Whichever of the three cricketing facets you require of him, Roelof van der Merwe is an extremely reliable competitor and a great man to have in the trenches alongside you.
New ball bowler Michael Hogan will be crucial to set the tempo for his inexperienced Glamorgan teammates against Division One opposition in this truncated season. The Australian is in his last year before turning 40, an impressive age to still be charging in and bowling first-class level pace at.
The now dual Australian and British citizen needs a further six victims to reach a career tally of 600 wickets in all first-class cricket. Ahead of this game, the right-arm bowler has 370 first-class wickets for Glamorgan plus 224 for Western Australia.
Though do not expect him to find the 6 to reach 600 easy to come by at Taunton, a ground renowned for batting friendly or spin-bowling friendly conditions and with little assistance for the seamers. Also he has never before bowled south west of Bristol in first-class cricket.
With Tom Banton, Dom Bess, Jack Leach and Lewis Gregory on different degrees of England duty, expect Roelof van der Merwe to be Somerset’s sole spin option and Josh Davey, Jack Brooks and the Overton twins to complete the bowling attack, ably assisted by skipper Tom Abell.
The main issue for Somerset going into this fixture is the opening batsman slot to partner Eddie Byrom. With Marcus Trescothick retired and no Azhar Ali or Murali Vijay this year, left-arm bowling allrounder from Exeter CC Tom Lammonby was given a go vs Gloucestershire earlier in the week. 5 off 35 balls says he likely won’t be given another go.
Steven Davies would be an ideal candidate, but surely keeping and opening the batting is too much to ask of a 34-year-old in 4-day cricket (even with fewer overs in the day amidst the Covid-19 rules). Asking George Bartlett or Tom Abell to step up, likely against their will, could be likened to England forcing Joe Root to try and fill Jonathan Trott’s number three berth for so long.
Sam Young opened in the intra-squad match, but I feel it may still be one summer too early for the former Millfield School youngster who only celebrated his 20th birthday on Thursday.
Thus, maybe Ben Green will be the next to be experimented with at the top, or one of the aforementioned given another go (yes I have gone around in circles over this one tricky spot to fill in another wise strong line-up…sorry!)
Somerset Squad: TBA
In the Welsh camp, key men David Lloyd and Timm van der Gugten will miss the season opener. David Lloyd fractured his foot stopping a straight drive and will be re-evaluated in a few weeks’ time.
Timm van der Gugten strained his ankle attempting a catch in the outfield and is hopeful of returning to action for the third, if not the second fixture of the Bob Willis Trophy.
Glamorgan Squad: Chris Cooke, Keiran Bull, Kiran Carlson, Tom Cullen, Marchant De Lange, Dan Douthwaite, Charley Hemphrey, Michael Hogan, Billy Root, Nick Selman, Ruaidhri Smith, Callum Taylor, Graham Wagg
Somerset won comfortably in a somewhat different 4-day friendly vs Gloucestershire last week. Two days were played in Taunton before the match situation was carried to Bristol for the remaining one and a half days. They won by an innings and 24 runs early Wednesday afternoon, then batted for further practice up until 109/3 off 30 overs.
Glamorgan simply played two intra-squad pre-season fixtures, perhaps partly influenced by Welsh lockdown rules being slightly behind England, for example Welsh club cricket could not be played until at least a week after English clubs were permitted to play.
These fixtures do not tell us as much about players’ form, but Glamorgan captain Chris Cooke assured the press his team are in great form going into the Bob Willis trophy.
Weather and Conditions
It is set to be an entirely dry four days in Taunton! A bit of cloud cover, but nothing like you would expect for a ‘normal’ season’s curtain raiser!
Date: 1st-4th Aug
Ground: Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton
Odds (SkyBet): To be the outright winners of the trophy: Somerset 6/1, Glamorgan 33/1,